September 27, 2012 Accent Signage terminated problem employee Andrew Engeldinger. He then went out to his car where he retrieved a gun, and proceeded to shoot and kill six 6 people at his workplace, and seriously wound another.

The family of slain Accent Signage employee Jacob Beneke filed suit in Hennepin County District Court on Friday, alleging the shooting was “…reasonably forseeable based on past incidents of employment misconduct and a known propensity for abuse and violence.” The suit alleges Accent Signage was grossly negligent, faulting the employer for not having security cameras or security personnel present during the termination meeting. I certainly think the Accent Signage case will be dismissed, as the facts simply seem too speculative.

The Company had previously cited Mr. Engeldinger for misconduct including offensive behavior, tardiness, and poor job performance. He was told management wanted to meet with him at the end of the work day. Following the meeting, Mr. Engeldinger retrieved the gun from his car.

Unfortunately, terminations are becoming more volatile. At my firm we have assisted a number of clients develop a strategic plan for the termination process. Depending on the facts and circumstances, elements of the termination plan include:

  • Consult with local police and advise them of the timing of the termination notice and the specific basis for concern;
  • Obtain a Harassment Restraining Order;
  • Consult with IT to anticipate technology and password issues;
  • Review Employee Handbooks or Policy and Procedure Manuals;
  • Consider timing options, i.e. when to deliver the news;
  • Develop a checklist to make sure all property, keys, etc. are returned;
  • Make arrangements for a courier service to return personal belongings to the employee; and
  • Conduct a threat assessment.

Safety of employees always comes first, followed by protection of business interests and assets. Developing a strategic plan can go a long way to minimize the potential risk possible in an employee termination.  The present law suit should serve as a red flag to remind employers to review their termination strategies.